Advisor's Role Feed

For a fine mind like mine can neither be bought nor borrowed, but make me an offer

At Wise Counsel where theologians, therapists, legal minds and others help Dynastic Families be Wise and Virtuous and so preserve the family and the wealth for 100 years or more, as a public service, I see they cite Seneca, suicided later by his best client, Nero, "A good mind is neither borrowed nor bought." I told my friend and mentor, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, that we might  borrow that remark for a tagline at Gifthub, if only to hint, however broadly, that Tutor and I, with our fine minds, have neither borrowed our wisdom and virtue nor been bought. Tutor just looked at me with disgust. I like him a lot, and appreciate his high standards, but I think when it comes to self promotion he may be out of touch with the times. We are Wise and Virtuous Counselors to the World's Wealthiest Families. What does good taste have to do with it?  It is all Wealthbondage, after all. 

Impact investing - Friend or Foe of Philanthropy?

Looks like I have just now agreed to talk on impact investing for a group of fundraisers in May.  They want me to provoke table conversations with such questions as these. 

  1. What is impact investing, as opposed to earlier forms of socially conscious or screened investing?
  2. Where does it fit in your work as a nonprofit? (Endowment?)
  3. Is impact investing friend or foe for fundraising? (A recent US Trust survey of wealthy families found that 1/3rd  do impact investing, and 1/3rd of that third said they do it in lieu of giving)
  4. How do advisors get paid on philanthropy? How do they get paid on impact investing? Any predictions where that will go?
  5. Will impact investing steal your nonprofit mojo?
  6. Are children raised in a mall, whose only categories are “own,” “manage,” “buy,” “invest,” and “consume,” and whose social status, identity, and sense of community are confirmed by “likes” and “friends” going to prefer impact investing to deeper and more challenging engagement with a cause?
  7. Will any rational person prefer sacrificial giving to impact investing when both get results, and confer feel-good bragging rights?
  8. What is your “competitive advantage” vis a vis impact investing  if you are, say, the Catholic Church, Jewish Federation, Georgetown, a soup kitchen?
  9. In seeking the good, the betterment of humankind, to whom, to what prayer, poem, tradition, or prospectus,  do you turn in the dark of the night?
  10. Heidegger wrote, “We live in society, we dwell in community.” If impact investing lives in the market, in what community do you and your donors dwell?
  11. If your gift planning is transactional, all about the art of the ask, who do you think is better at sales, you or the investment advisor?
  12. When income tax and estate tax deductions are eliminated for the highest capacity donors, under Trump, how will you tell a story true enough and compelling enough that the “social investor” is willing to accept a guaranteed 100% loss of his or her funds via a gift, when he or she can get (according to the investment advisor) a market return and greater impact by keeping the money under management for the Greater Glory of God and the Betterment of Humankind in the Bank of Wealth Bondage?

Any thoughts? Further questions?

Autumnal Reflection on Legacy

A true story for once: I am in a restaurant in Dallas, at a table of financial advisors and attorneys. To my left across the table is an advisor I have known and worked with ("Legacy Planning for the Wealthy") for thirty years. He is a business friend and colleague. To his right is an attorney who is famous for, let us say, naming a tax strategy as "Ulysses." My friend, after a couple of glasses of wine, is whispering behind his hand to the attorney, and laughing. My friend is looking at me as he laughs, as is the attorney. So, my friend says, to the attorney, "Ask him go ahead, ask him." Ask Phil if he has read Irish literature. And yes I have read Ulysses, my father taught it. My Aunt taught it. I taught it, and also Joyce's Dubliners, and the fine story with which it ends, "The Dead." Why, then, is legacy planning the sorry mess it is? Why has it become The Book of the Dead? Simple: Because those who know better, are silenced by the Living Dead and become Zombies in their turn, the revenge of this world upon the next. Legacy planning begins with conviction, as to a handful of questions. The questions do not have answers. Neither the CPA nor the attorney, nor the financial advisor, can answer them. The questions require decisions in the light of whatever we hold holy, and to share that with the advisors is to be exposed to derision. So the living dead bury the dead alive. Questions:

  1. How much is enough for me? For my family? How much can I/we devote to something larger than ourselves?
  2. What lives in me, from what source, or seed, and how will that live on through others after I am gone?
  3. What in this moment, at this crossroads, for me, my family, and our community, am I called to do, even if others scoff?

What sheds light on these questions are traditions that go back to year one, and earlier. Scriptures, classic texts, more recent texts channeling those, the traditions of democracy and of the economy (buying, selling, owning, investing, measuring, managing, scaling, and cashing out). The pearl of great price. The birds of the air. The seed that falls on infertile ground. The pearls before swine. The branches of the old tree burned. The faithful servant whose only service in his blindness is to stand and wait. To create a space in and out of time, that moment in every day that Satan's watch-fiends cannot find, to come to conviction, is what we each must do before we go to see my good friend, the best of the bunch, or the attorney to his right. The seed has a thick husk for good reason, so it can withstand weeks, years, centuries of drought. What will live on? Even the dead husks will die out too if the seed within them does not sprout. In my friend, in the attorney to his right, seed within the husk, for them too. We do not wholly die until our last breath. Even in that breath the sinner can be saved. Afterward comes the eulogy, and the reading of the will. As a Rabbi said to me once, "Your last will and testament is your final teaching. What do you want it to say?"


Is this Cheating at Morals Tutoring? You decide!

It is 9 am, time for Audrey's court mandated daily hour of Morals Tutoring by a Qualified Morals Tutoring Professional, but the silence in her room is palpable.

She may have hurt Tutor's feelings. She is sitting in her blue denim jacket, and pink corduroys, with her back to him, quite content to work on her Thelma and Louise coloring book. She has told him terrible things, without even looking back over her shoulder at him, as he lies on her bed, sorting his Values Cards, bearing the Christian Martyrs, to decide on his Personal Values. St Sebastian today seems right, shot full of arrows. Audrey told him that he is not her Most Trusted Advisor; not even her Morals Tutor; he is just her babysitter, and she does not even need one. She knows it hurts him, and that is why she says it so calmly, like our future Queen, setting her Queendom to rights. The Servants must know their place, even Tutor. Brooding, face downcast, Tutor rises and dejectedly shuffles toward the door. Audrey does not see him, as her back is turned, but she senses him escaping. "Where are you going?," Audrey asks reproachfully. 

What fun would it be to be alone? Really alone? Much better to sit with back turned, imperious and self-sufficient, as the Tutor witnesses separateness and confirms it. How sweet to make a grownup whimper. No sense letting one escape.

Tutor knew that all along, because he suffers from the same problem of reality-mediated-by-the-other. Without Audrey, or some other child to have fun with, he would not be a Silly Grownup, anymore, he would be an ancient man growing more ancient every day. He only got to be thousands of years old because, luckily, there has always been another prince or princess or inheritor to coach.

So, Tutor returns to the bed. He knows it may be cheating, at least it is in a gray area, but he will write up today as 'Worked with Audrey for 60 minutes on Lessons from the Christian Martyrs." He did work with her, in a sense. She worked, he worked. They worked together? About as well as any client ever does with a morals tutor, I think.

Today, though, Tutor gets the last word. "OK, so I am not your babysitter. Some day I am going to be your P.O."

"What is a P.O.?", asks Audrey rising to the bait.

"Parole Officer!," shouts Tutors, exuberantly, his fists dancing over his own head, as Audrey does when excited. 

Our once and future Queen, serenely crayons on.  Her face says, "What a Stupid Grown Up." But she does not deign to make a sound.

The World Turned Upside Down within the Very Castle Itself

Momma, also known as Big Big Momma, though she is as slender and lithe as an Olympic fencer, but big in the eyes of the traders she daily defeats on course to own and rule the world before she hits 35, and big in the eyes of Audrey, who is still waist high, and big as a mother is big forever in the heart of the one she raises, is hovering outside Audrey's door. "It is rather quiet in there," she says to herself. "Too quiet; what are those two up to now?" Those two meaning Audrey and her Tutor.

When Momma opens the door, she sees two half creatures, two bodies cut off at the waist, butt-side up, and the two of them with their heads between their legs, faces red, hands clasping their own ankles, galumphing about the room.

"What in the name of Heaven are you two doing?," asks Momma. "You are supposed to be doing your lessons," she adds. "I am," chirps Audrey; "Tutor is preparing the Heir, Momma. He is teaching me how to turn the world upside down so it is right side up again!" You as faithful reader must know that Tutor, following both Stoic and Christian Doctrine, teaches that the last shall be first, and the meek shall inherit, some sweet day, when the world is righted at last. "Momma, you are upside down! You are walking on the ceiling. Be careful, Momma, you might fall down!" "Well," says Momma, playing along, "You had better save me. Turn me right side up, please." Audrey and Tutor turn to face each other, heads inverted, like a crack drill team from another planet. "Ready!," shouts Audrey. "Steady!," replies Tutor. "Go!," exclaims Audrey. And both stand so fast the blood drains to their feet, and they stagger about like drunks, until Audrey clutches her mother's legs, and Tutor falls rump first, to the floor. "I saved you, Momma," murmurs Audrey, "You are right side up now!"

I mentioned this strange episode to my colleague in Wealth Bondage, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, BA in Forensic Hermeneutics, University of Calcutta, and PhD, English Language and Literature, Yale, now Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning in Wealth Bondage, and he assured me that, though the incident may be real, it is also a fable, or parable, for God writes the Book of Nature in Types, for our instruction. So, I took the bait, and asked what the parable means. He said, "The World Turned Upside Down is a trope going back to Diogenes, he of the famous barrel, who once counseled Alexander the Great, to give it a rest, and not bother conquering the world, since happiness could be found by sitting down in the sun by Diogenes and his dog by the barrel or dumpster in which the sage lived. Later, towards the end of his days, Diogenes asked to be buried face down, so that when the world turned right side up, he would be facing in the right direction. That trope," Chadwallah continued for my edification and yours too, if your hunger for hidden meanings has kept you reading thus far, "was taken up in the Enlightenment, as a subject of poems and masquerade balls, all leading up to the American and French Revolutions. Speaking now," said Chadwallah, "as the Shop Steward for the Wealth Bondage Chapter of SIEU in our fight for $15 dollars an hour, I take this parable as a sign that Revolution will come, not from the shop floor only, from the least among us, but from inside the very Castle of Wealth Bondage itself, through the good auspices of The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars, who has come again, to save us all from ourselves, and to mentor our once and future Good Queen Audrey, who I take to be a Type of Astraea, Goddess of Justice, who will own, rule, and save us all....." For this kind of tripe, Dr. Chadwallah expects $15 an hour? But he is a good friend, and we all need a dream or delusion if we are to get through another day in Wealth Bondage, The Way It Is. Most of us just pretend we are free, insofar as we consume, or that we can get free if we do as told, think as told, and don't make trouble  for our clients, donors, immediate superiors, or the higher ups, to whose status we aspire, as if that would do us any good. At least Chadwallah has a plan: let Tutor fix it for us. We certainly can't do anything about it for ourselves.

Audrey, the World's Wealthiest Heir, on Rich Kids of Instagram

Since we don't have wifi in the Dumpter and I cannot afford a cell phone, I do my blogging and market research into what the wealthy really want at the public library with the other homeless people. I follow Rich Kids on Instagram to find possible prospects for my moral tutorials, and was shocked recently to see a photo of Audrey holding up her rescue dog, Rex, licking her face. Apparently Tutor must have borrowed Momma's iPad to show that not all rich kids are jerks. The difference, obviously, is Moral Tutorials from people like Tutor and me, who are post-materialists.  Ours is a noble profession affected with the public interest. It would be demeaning to take money for it, but alms would be appreciated. 

How to be a Most Trusted Advisor to Intergenerational Wealth - A Word to the Wise from Big, Big Momma

Poor Tutor! He has been sobbing and thrashing on Audrey's bed, hands and feet flailing, as she, with her back turned to him on the floor, works on a puzzle, ignoring his noise.  Eventually, without turning around, she asks, "Tutor, what is wrong with you? Why are you crying and crying?" He says, "Because you said I am not a trusted advisor." She says, truthfully, "Because you are not. You are just my babysitter." "I know," says Tutor with a heaving sob, "but you said you don't even need a babysitter." "Because I don't," says Audrey calmly. And to make it worse, she elaborates with a secret truth, "Momma told me yesterday that you need a babysitter more than I do." Tutor wails! "Ok," says Tutor sitting up eagerly, "I have an idea. You be the most trusted advisor and I will be the kid, ok?" Audrey rises, turns, draws herself up to her full height, with an imperious mien, like a Head Butler, or Privy Counselor, on parade. Her left hand is behind her back, her elbow crooked. The right arm is extended, pistoning in and out, with forefinger straight up. "Bla, bla, bla," she intones, in synchrony with the finger.  Tutor rises and sits down cross-legged on the floor, his hands over his ears, his eyes closed. After a time, he says, "I know, let's both be trusted advisors, ok? I want to be one too!" So the lanky Tutor stands, his finger extended, facing a child not tall enough to reach his waist, whose extended finger is about as high as his knee. "First one to laugh loses, Tutor!," says Audrey. So they have a "bla, bla, bla" battle, getting louder and louder, with faces as solemn as can be, until the door opens, and there is Big, Big Momma, the Warrior Queen of Wall Street. "What is going on in here? I can't think with you shouting 'bla, bla, bla' like two complete morons." "We are trusted advisors!, Momma," shouts Audrey. And then it is Momma who laughs, and says, "Well, advice is best given in whispers." And so it is.

Tutor gets Tutored by Momma

Having told Audrey her bedtime story, and having untangled his lanky frame from her sleepy form, Tutor pauses on the way out beside Momma in her easy chair. Being a Morals Tutor by profession, and a lifelong bore, Tutor cannot help sharing his unsolicited wisdom. "Madame, for Audrey's sake, you might consider giving her a kiss when I depart, and saying something like 'I love you, child; I always have and always will. You are infinitely precious. Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite!' Long after we are gone, she will feel that love and be strengthened for whatever trial or tribulation keeps her awake at night." Momma (known by Audrey as Big, Big Momma, though she is slender) looks up from her iPad, "Of course, I tuck her in once you are gone." Tess then extends her right arm out long, in imitation of the pedantic gesture so beloved by Tutor, her forefinger pointing straight up. Her arm pistons in and out. "I always have and I always will." Her eyes and finger return to the iPad. "Dismissed!" Momma is Momma, conquer the world as she will. Tutor returns to his monk's cell, by the Dungeon, scene of better times in better days.


The Old Cumberland Begggar, a Version for Audrey

Bedtime is the best time for stories, as the Castle quiets down, and even busy Momma takes a moment to bask in peace and love.  Just to see hyperactive Audrey quiet down and nestle into Tutor's shoulder, and smile half in a dream is gratifying to world-conquering Momma's human heart.  Tonight Tutor is telling a tale that Wordsworth told from his own childhood, when England was still enchanted by fairies and goblins and no smoke could be yet seen from factories, and time was measured in seasons, and sunrises and sunsets, and no man or woman lived by the time-clock, measured and managed like mechanical things effectively and efficiently to some grim purpose, not their own. 

Scripture is hard enough, Wordsworth riskier yet. But Audrey knows no better. "You see," says Tutor, long ago, not that far from the Castle back in the old days, there was an old, old beggar who used to walk from town to town. White hair, white beard. He had a staff or stick he used as a cane. His clothes were raggedy, but he is hale, that means healthy, and strong for his old age. Can you see him, Audrey, in your mind's eye?" She affirms she can, indeed, nestling closer, and with her little dreamy smile. Rex has crept up the bed and lies with his nose on her chest, her hand on his head. "Well, see the old beggar now. He is sitting on a bench, but it is not really  a bench, at the edge of the highway. It is step that horsemen (and horsewoman, too) use, there were no cars, to get back on a horse. Well, the old man is sitting there. He has a crust of bread, can you see it? in his hands. Guess how he got it? A girl about your age, who had red hair and lived with her Momma, not in a palace or castle, but in a small hut in a small village had given him that crust, which her Momma had given her to eat herself. She was hungry, too. But she gave the old man the bread.  When he walked by their house, he did not stop and ask; she ran out with her own breakfast." "That was really nice of her," says Audrey, "because she was hungry, too." "That's right," says Tutor, "but look now. See how the old man's fingers shake. He is so, so old, his hands are shaking even though the morning is warm. He is so infirm, that means weak, the birds are not afraid of him. They have come within the reach of his staff, unafraid, to peck about his feet. His palsied hands are shaking breadcrumbs to the ground, and the birds surround him for their feast.  He too is a giver. Kid, can I recite you some out loud? It doesn't sound like regular talk, it sounds more like Gospels in church, ok? Just a little bit." Tutor knows it by heart. As he says, it memorized itself.

Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been,
Themselves the dealers-out
Of some small blessings; have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart.

"I would give my bread to the old man, too," murmurs Audrey, her hand stroking the stiff fur of the unlovely dog she rescued from the pound. Momma has put her iPad down. This time, as Tutor exits, his charge fast asleep, Momma's hand comes up to be clasped in parting, sans cash in the palm. "One human heart," murmurs she. For Tutor it is joy and a relief to feel love circulate, from past to present, towards a future, through the text. A castle by the sea can so cold.

Clarifying my Business Proposition as a Wealth and Wisdom Consultant to Mammon's Minions

Been talking to my mentor, The Happy Tutor, about our role as highest level consultants (wisdom, virtue, taste, manners, and spirituality) to highest level wealth holders. Tutor, as the younger son of a noble family, having roistered at Oxford with Dr. Rabelais, got ordained as a friar, and hired himself out, as a Morals Tutor, centuries ago, to Sir John Oldcastle (Shakespeare's model, apparently for Falstaff) whose family had built the Castle now inhabited by the world's wealthiest hedge fund manager, Tess, and her daughter, our once and future queen Audrey, who will inherit a controlling interest in the world, rule it, and save it in the nick of time, if all goes well, and she gets help she needs from me, Tutor, and Rex the Rescue Dog.

So, Tutor looks upon our work as what he calls "our noble trade." Tough love for those who, above the merchant class, the military class, the judiciary, the lower level employees, the unemployed, the poor, the halt and lame, the imprisoned and the oppressed, are closer to God. Selected by the market, often selected by high board scores, these, the best and brightest, marked out by wealth, status, and rank, are those who own, rule, and save by right, for the benefit of all. Yet, he says, we are not mere courtiers, machiavels, moral biographers, men or women of all work, privy counselors,  consiglieres, cat's paws, henchmen, technocrats, publicists, lobbyists, or apologists for family enterprises that are beyond good and evil. Our role is to take the heir in hand at a formative age, to shape and mold with cold showers, corporal punishment, fasting, prayer, rigorous study of ancient and modern texts, military or other public service, so that the best and brightest can achieve their God and Market given "call," to own all, rule all, and save all. Tutor is, admittedly Old School, he does believe that blood become bluer in a Dynastic Family over time, but not automatically. That moral, intellectual, and spiritual refinement must be drilled in from birth, generation by generation, by morals tutors like us. The thoroughbred must be broken to the bridle.

I asked Tutor, realistically, how society can trust a trusted advisor, so near the seats of power, not to become a lackey, a flunky, what Romans called a "parasite," or to become what the Catholic Church calls a "Simoniac," one who sells holy things for money or preferment. The temptations of the flesh, status, power, and of material things are so great! That, Tutor told me is why legitimate Morals Tutors to the World's Wealthiest families must acclimate themselves to poverty, chastity, fasting, prayer, endless study, public disgrace and contumely. Only those hardened by life on the street, naked, like Diogenes in a Dumpster,  who eschew any payment, other than a modest stipend and room and board, and who are crazy enough to speak truth to power, to be whipping boys or girls when called upon to take a beating in a good cause, can be trusted to help the world's wealthiest track straight and true with Wisdom and Virtue. I took this as good news, insofar as I have no clients, no money, no clothes, am certifiably insane, and am a total pariah with my fellow citizens of all genders, races, classes and creeds. Even, then, as Tutor reminds me, I am at risk of spiritual pride, making a virtue of necessity. My temptation will come, he says, when and if a client ever offers to pay me for Wisdom and Virtue. "Better," he said, "you peddle your fanny for loose change, behind the Dumpster at the Corner of Wealth and Bondage, than sell wisdom and virtue to Mammon's Minions as if it were an asset they could own, like financial capital. The muses, the graces, the holy spirit will not be traduced. Prostitute those ladies, and you will find," he said, "they are the fates, and the furies."

Nevertheless, saving my soul is not your problem. I am willing to accept the moral hazard of working with you, as an Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual, no matter your current moral condition. I am like a Doctor who takes the hardest cases. ("Phil," as my friend Junius Martial once said "is both a surgeon and a mortician; if the surgery fails, the embalming is free. Either way your family gets you back looking better than ever.") If you have net worth of several hundred million dollars or more, then, have poor morals, and are foolish, and want a quick pop - a taste, a free trial serving, of wisdom and virtue - let's talk! It would be helpful if you can bring to your free initial consultation a list of your moral defects, a list of literary and philosophical or spiritual books you have read, if any, an account of recent follies, and any indicators you have noted of moral blindness, spiritual pride, self aggrandizement, hard-heartedness, or parti pris. (Noted in yourself. If you note such defects in others, I am happy to work with them, too, and am pleased to offer a family and friends discount. If you note these defects only in the poor, I would only ask for a modest subsidy.) I can then provide you with a custom letter of engagement, with cost, time line, and projected benefits, "Before and After." I cannot grant you attorney client privilege, but Tutor can provide the veil of the confessional, as well as absolution and penance, if they are required to put you on the straight and narrow path in your own Journey from Sin to Salvation.